Some days putting in the hard work for brain injury or stroke recovery can be… well, frankly, hard. Here’s why that’s normal and how to get through it.
You may find yourself in speech-language, occupational, and physical therapies, working hard towards your goals. If you’ve worked with a rehabilitation therapist, you’ve likely heard them emphasize the value of homework or “carryover” exercises in between sessions, and the importance of quality, consistent, focused practice at home once therapy is finished.
We know the positive role that practice plays in brain recovery. But sometimes, it can be easier said than done. There may be days when you feel exhausted, stressed, or sad, and it can be hard to motivate yourself during your exercises. What if you just repeat that language task you know you’re already good at just one more time? Ok, you may have been going through the motions, but at least you did it, right? Here’s the thing – the brain science tells us it’s not worth it if it’s not challenging.
Thomas Edison said, “there is no substitute for hard work.” And he was right. To really make those big improvements, your brain needs to work for them. Brain science says your brain only changes when you really challenge it – and this is the important part.
Studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health suggest that doing cognitive tasks that feel difficult, like problem solving, learning something new, reading a newspaper article and discussing it with a friend, truly challenge the brain – but note that these activities are more than simply playing games – your brain needs to learn something to have an impact.
So yes, challenging your brain is an important part of practice. But quality practice can only be achieved when given the right amount of challenge.
Apps like Constant Therapy can provide an excellent platform for a quality challenge in cognitive and language areas.
In a recent study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, patients made fantastic improvement in their cognitive and language skills using Constant Therapy. Findings showed that Constant Therapy provided the right amount of challenge for the participants’ individualized therapy program. We know this because participants did not score 0% (too difficult!), nor did they score 100% on tasks (too easy!). Instead, participants’ scores ranged from 40% to 80% accuracy. In other words, Constant Therapy’s smart technology adapts to each person’s unique performance in order to deliver the right challenge for improving cognitive and language skills.
When faced with a cognitive or language challenge, you may feel the “emotional discomfort ” of exertion. A recent New York Times article put it this way: ”…but if you consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain.”
Quality practice also means listening to your body and your symptoms. If you’re finding tasks cause an increase in symptoms like headaches or dizziness, you might discuss with your speech-language, occupational, or physical therapist about strategies for symptom management.
It’s okay to feel this way. But how do we overcome it? Here are some strategies to try:
Nothing worth having comes easy. But you deserve the best – so strive to meet that new challenge – just take it one day at a time.